Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Friend's Classroom

Hi Friends,
I love peeking into other teachers' classrooms, don't you??   I'd like to share some pictures of a friend's classroom that I visited today. Her name is Allison Hutchins and she teaches 3rd grade at another school in my district.  Here goes...
  
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Thanks for sharing your awesome room, Allison!


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Friday, March 28, 2014

Story Stones


 Hi Friends!
When my son, Austin, was a little boy, I used to make up bedtime stories in which he and his cousin, Mason, were the main characters. These stories took them on adventures in a variety of settings. Each setting had its own set of problems, but Austin and Mason were able to solve them and emerge as heroes in all of the stories.  I loved making up these stories and Austin begged me to retell the same ones over and over again.  Austin is 21 years old now and still remembers some of those stories.

Kids love to hear stories as well as create them.  So, when I saw Story Stones on Pinterest, I thought I could use them with my class in a fun way to make up stories and review story elements along the way.  I decided to make my own Story Stones because they are a little pricey if you want to buy them. 

The Story Stones I made include pictures of a variety of characters, settings, and things that may cause problems and/or offer solutions.
I plan to teach my class how to use them after spring break.  I will model how to do this with the whole class at first, but then I'll have them work in groups.  I'm not sure how other teachers use Story Stones, but here's how I'm going to use them:

1.  Put students in groups of 4.
2.  Place 12 Story Stones in a bag and have each student take 3
(No peeking).
3.  The student with a character(s) or setting will go first.  This student begins making up the story by introducing the character(s) or setting. Why?  Because we know that authors introduce the setting and character(s) at the beginning of the story.  
4.  Continue in a clockwise manner.  Each student must add to the story using his Story Stones.  You can only use one stone at a time. Keep in mind that your story must have a beginning, middle and end as well as all the story elements (setting, characters, problem, and solution).  
5.  Have fun!  Stories may be silly, sad, scary or outrageous, but they can't involve violence on any kind. 

Here are the materials I used to make my Story Stones:

Bag of stones from the Dollar Tree ( I bought 4 bags because I wanted lots of flat stones.)

Mod Podge & a foam brush

Stickers from the Dollar Tree
Pictures from catalog
Adhere sticker or picture to stone and paint over top with Mod Podge
I made 48 Story Stones.  I included pictures for each of the story elements.

Children have such great imaginations that I know they will have so much fun making up stories with these Story Stones!
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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Classroom Library

"Fill your classroom with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."
                          Dr. Seuss
Hi Friends!
I'm sure all of you have seen this quote floating around on Pinterest.  I just love it!  However, I changed one word in this quote to fit my post today.  Can you guess which one?  I changed "home" to "classroom."   I think the message, either way, is extremely important. 

I've worked really hard to fill all the nooks and crannies in my classroom with lots of books and reading materials.  I strongly believe that my students LOVE to read because they have access to so many wonderful books and reading materials on a daily basis.  I give my students lots of time throughout the day to read.  Here are some pictures of my classroom library and other nooks and crannies in my classroom.


This is my classroom library.  The tubs and books are sorted in a variety of ways: author, topic,
series, or variety.  The tubs are labeled with a number & title.  The books in each tub are also numbered
on the back so they can be put back quickly.

My shelves are made with cinder blocks on the bottom and white laminate shelves on top.  I spaced the
cinder blocks so that I could put tubs between them.

I have lots of author tubs.  I used white ice cube tubs from Walmart
and labeled them.  This is just one cart of them.  I have several others on another shelf.


I have lots of books displayed on picture frame easels around my classroom. 

Library books are placed in this tub every week.


We have a nonfiction library shelf in my classroom.  The kids helped to label the book boxes.
The kids really LOVE these nonfiction books.

 
All of our student made books are placed in this tub.  I always see kids picking books from this tub for self-selected reading time.

 

I love "advertising" books in this way.   
For every theme, season or holiday, I make a display of books to invite kids to read.
 
 
 
I have books at all of my centers.  This is my science center.  I have books in the
black tub on the floor and our unit of study books in the white tub on the table.
 
 
I invite kids to read what other students have written during Writers' Workshop by putting a
SPOTLIGHT on their writing.
 
 
I've invited staff members to come into our classroom and share their favorite books with us.
We think reading is so important that we have a Book Share Wall in our classroom.

 
This is our Author Study timeline.  After we do an Author Study, their name and a picture of one on their books goes up on our wall.  Kids love to talk about their favorite books and authors.

Most of the reading materials I have in my classroom were purchased by me over many years.  When I first started teaching in 1986, I walked into a classroom that was filled with desks and a set of basal readers.  That's it!  I started a classroom library that first year with just a few books of my own. 

 
 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Gung-Hey-Fat-Choy!

  Gung-Hey-Fat-Choy!  Happy New Year!!

     My class learned all about the Chinese New Year which began this year on January 31st and lasted two weeks. We learned some interesting facts about how the Chinese celebrate the new year.  We did this by reading books, watching videos on You Tube and doing research on the internet.  Here are some of the books we read:
My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Chinese New Year by David F. Marx

Lion Dancer by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low

Here's one of the You Tube videos we watched:

http://youtu.be/FkPLmEvB8BA


 
     The final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations ends with the Lantern Festival. So, we decided to make some lanterns to hang from the ceiling in the hallway.  They turned out great! (Not my original idea) 






Here are the directions for making the lanterns:
 
Materials: 
12" x 18" red construction paper cut into two strips measuring 6" x 18" each
 
white index cards (3" x 5")
 
black construction paper handles 2" x 8"
 
Chinese symbols/words for students to copy
 

 
Make a small fold on one end of the paper.  Fold the rest of the paper into fourths.
 


Next, have the students write Chinese symbols or words on each of 4 white 3" x 5" index cards.  Glue one in each section.



Fold, stand up and glue along lip.  Glue or staple on the handle.
 
 
I would love to hear what you do in your classroom to learn about Chinese New Year.






 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kids Teaching Kids

Hi Friends!
We all know how powerful it is when students can teach something to one another.  It's been one of my goals this year to give my students more opportunities to do this.  In order to be able to teach someone something, you need to understand what it is you're teaching and be able to explain your thinking in a way that others can understand.  I think this quote by Einstein sums it up:

 
 
Here are a few ways I've encouraged my students to teach others:
 
1.  When a student brings something from home that they've made and others show an interest, I encourage them to teach others how to make it.  For example, I had a girl in my class that made some of those rubber band bracelets.  Everyone was interested in how she made them. So I asked her if she would like to teach everyone how to make them and she said yes.  I went out and bought lots of the rubber bands in a variety of colors. The next day she worked with small groups of kids and taught them how to make their very own bracelet.  What a teacher she was! She explained how to make the bracelet as she slowly and carefully put one together in front of her small group.  Then she guided and helped each student as needed.  The kids were so engaged and made some beautiful bracelets. 
 









  
This student even wrote a book about how to make a rubber brand bracelet.

   Another student taught the class how to make caterpillar bookmarks using tongue depressors. 


 
  This student taught the class how he made his Lego creation.
 


 

 2.  Another way I've encouraged students to teach others is through class projects.  My students worked together to create a large mural depicting the story of the First Thanksgiving.  We hung it up in our classroom and invited other classes to come and listen to us share what we learned. 



When we learned about the signs of fall, we made posters and shared them with the first grade classes.  Each child from my class shared his/her poster with a small group of first graders.  They had to teach the younger kids about the signs of fall. (Sorry, no pictures.)

3.  Finally, I try each and every day to let my students know how much I value them.  Kids have so much to offer if we just give them opportunities to share what they know.  It doesn't just have to be what they've learned at school either.
Maybe you could have a "Kids Teaching Kids" time each week and students could sign up to teach something to the class. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

The Best Part of Me


Hi Friends!
Have you read this book?  If not, I highly recommend it.
It's called The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald. 
 
 
The book has black and white photographs of the parts that children chose as their best part and handwritten essays about them.  The book inspired me to do something similar with my class. 
 
Here are a couple of my students' completed essays and our hallways display: